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Dark Horizons - An art exhibition by leading Muslim-Australian artists

News - Dark Horizons - Abdul Abdullah 2016

DARK HORIZONS - Fear of an Imagined Threat

An art exhibition by leading Muslim-Australian artists 

Abdul Abdullah, Abdul-Rahman Abdullah and Khaled Sabsabi

Fear is one of the most powerful human emotions. It controls our behaviour, making us cautious of dangerous situations. An irrational or imaginary fear can be equally as dangerous to our well-being – if we let it get the best of us. The way that fear, both real and imagined, is used to control our thoughts and actions is the theme of a major new series of art exhibitions opening at Pātaka Art Gallery and Museum in Wellington, New Zealand on 27 August 2017.

The suite of three solo exhibitions by Abdul Abdullah, Abdul-Rahman Abdullah and Khaled Sabsabi is entitled Dark Horizons and it explores the duality of fear through a Muslim lens. 

Sydney-based Khaled Sabsabi is one of Australia’s leading moving image artists. Born in Tripoli a few years prior to the Lebanese civil war, Khaled was still a child when he and his brother were forced to flee through the warzone to seek asylum – eventually finding a new home in Sydney’s culturally diverse Western suburbs in the late 1970s. 

In his most recent installation entitled We Kill You (2016), courtesy of Milani Gallery in Brisbane, Khaled revisits Lebanon to investigate the shared, and hotly-contested, histories and geography of this region. Produced over a two-year period, the footage includes scenes also shot in Morocco and Saudi Arabia, and is presented as an expansive three channel video installation displayed on two-sided projection-screens suspended from the gallery ceiling. 

We Kill You fearlessly delves into a range of themes, from Pan-Arab nationalism and militarisation to the destabilising effects of colonialism. As Khaled states, “the work is another personal chapter in dealing with and showing the factual contradictions of war and the effects it has had on all people everywhere”. 

Abdul Abdullah’s paintings and embroidered fabric works bring these stories closer to home with portraits of returned Australian military personnel. The brooding figures in these works sit within a deep black background, their eyes peering out at the viewer from behind an aerosol smiley-face emoji spray-painted across the front of the canvas. 

The contradiction of the brightly coloured emoji seems to give voice to an unspoken trauma buried deep within the sitter. Like a jovial mask belying a darker truth, Abdul puts a human face to our role, as Western nations, in global traumas and atrocities happening across the globe, while also highlighting the effects of post-traumatic stress suffered by our military personal in service of their nation. 

Perth-based Abdul-Rahman Abdullah’s sculptural installation, The Dogs (2017), features a room full of ornate glass chandeliers floating above the gallery floor. Through the soft haze of refracted light a pack of wild black dogs appear, seemingly frozen in mid-flight with teeth bared and ears at full attention. It is unclear whether the dogs in this scene are in pursuit of a target or are fleeing danger themselves, and in this way the black dogs become a powerful symbol of war, fear and hysteria, and the treatment of asylum seekers as unworthy or sub-human. 

Director of Pātaka, Reuben Friend, comments “the surrealist quality of Abdul-Rahman’s sculptures creates a dream-like feeling that is at once both wondrous and nightmarish. As a Malay and Anglo-Australian artist, he has tremendous insight into the duality of Western and migrant fears, and a seemingly God-given gift for making both perspectives accessible”.

Alongside this suite of exhibition is a major solo project by New Zealand artist Kerry Ann Lee entitled Fruits in the Backwater (2017) and a solo exhibition by Nandita Kumar entitled Tentacles of Dimensions (2009). These projects are presented as part of ANZ Bank’s Season of Exhibitions at Pātaka Art+Museum exploring the challenges and achievements of ‘new New Zealanders’.

17 Jul 2017